A big challenge for Student Learning Support (SLS) at Navitas Professional Institute is to ensure that online learners (currently about 60% of our students) receive the learning support they need. It is known that students respond well to building their academic skills if it relates directly to their assessments and course demands. We also know that if this academic development occurs within a unit, rather than through a ‘bolted on’ workshop, for example, more students will engage with the learning.
To meet this challenge, a series of contextualised assessment support and skill development videos were embedded into three School of Counselling units in Trimester 3, 2015. These videos aimed to help students with four main steps for each assessment task:
- Breaking down the demands of the task;
- Preparing a structure;
- Using the right language and style; and
- Editing for cohesion and clarity.
This approach encourages students to transfer and practise the skills that they have learnt. Here’s an example video looking at preparing for a presentation assignment:
Revise and rewind
We undertook some initial investigation into usage of the videos at the end of the trimester. The data showed that on average close to 3/4 of students from each class accessed the videos. Looking at the analytics for each video, we discovered that most students accessed the videos more than once, with over 1/3 of students watching them 2-3 times and another 1/3 viewing them 4-8 times each. A few students in each unit even watched them over 10 times.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the videos were watched at the highest rate in the 10 day period just before an assessment was due.
Students reported that they enjoyed the flexibility of the videos: that they could access them wherever and at whatever time they needed. Students also commented that they felt engaged with the presenter and that the explanations helped them to understand the assignment better. Being able to pause and replay the video was an advantage for students, whilst our teaching staff found that they were able to communicate consistent messages about how to tackle the assignments.
Keeping it brief
Another particularly interesting trend was that students, on average, only viewed three minutes of any one video. This was the case whether the video was 4 to 5 minutes long or 8 minutes long. Overall, students engaged more with the videos that were under 5 minutes, and if the first round of videos were shorter, then more students also watched the set of videos for the second assignment. Here’s an example of one of the shorter videos:
Student engagement with these videos was high overall – an exciting outcome for us, as the average attendance at an academic development external workshop is usually about 15-25 students. The usage indicates that students may prefer skill development which occurs in context and resources which they can access at point of need.
Where to next?
These initial findings have informed a more formal research approach in Trimester 1, 2016 where students and educators will be invited to participate in focus groups and grades will be tracked. The research aims to examine staff and student’s perceptions of the effectiveness of these particular online resources which have been designed for skill development and for building academic confidence.